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Wikipedia Can't Handle The Truthiness

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2006-08-02


Wikipedia got a painful dose of "wikiality" this week as the online encyclopedia's greatest strength became its worst nightmare. Wikipedia editors, meet Stephen Colbert, whose satirical crusade against "truthiness" arrived with the mocking tone of Monty Python's coconut hoof beats.

Colbert, host of Comedy Central's news commentirical (it's fun to make up words) show The Colbert Report, analyzing Wikipedia's information democratization, incited an editing bonanza.

"Definitions will greet us as liberators" became the guiding assumption.

Of course, he was kidding when he told his viewers to edit the Wikipedia entry on elephants to say that the elephant population had tripled over the last six months. He was kidding, right?

A Few Good Wikis
Colbert: You want answers?

Tawker: I think I'm entitled to them.

Colbert: You want answers?

Tawker: I want the truthiness!

Colbert: You can't handle the truthiness!



It doesn't matter if it were a joke anymore because the resulting flashflood at the site brought down the darling of the Wisdom of Crowds, um, crowd in record time.

An error message shortly appeared telling visitors the Wikimedia Foundation servers were experiencing "technical difficulties."

Wikipedia came back online a short time later with 20 elephant-related entries locked, barring anonymous or new users from editing the articles. But they weren't the only one's blocked from the site.

Andrew, a.k.a Tawker, a member of the Wikipedia vandalism police was so steamed about the rash of elephant-entry poaching that he banned Colbert himself from using Wikipedia. Tawker says the database overload was unrelated to Colbert's orchestrated pummeling of the site, and invites Colbert to invite him on his show to talk about it - airfare courtesy of Comedy Central.

John Q chronicles the event on his blog, where Wikipedia mods boast that they had beaten Colbert's coup-de-pachyderms, and that Colbert had "vastly underestimated the speed of the Wiki user."

"Yes, he was joking," writes Q. "But he knew as well as anyone that the moment he suggested it, swarms of a**holes would respond quickly by making these edits. But the Wikipedia custodians responded quickly as well."

Burn, Colbert! What do you have to say for yourself? You may have pulled a Wiki fast one, but there's nothing that can beat a Wiki-quickie - except for maybe the school field hockey team.


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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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